2010 -- NATIONAL LEVEL
B.C. Feld, S. Schaefer
ABSTRACT & CITATION
In In re Gault, the Court formalized juvenile court proceedings. On one hand, juveniles were guaranteed more procedural rights, like the right to counsel. However, juveniles’ appearance with counsel has been found to be an aggravating factor at sentencing. This article explores whether a set of 1995 Minnesota law reforms had similarly ambiguous consequences. The first law required that the court appoint counsel of juveniles in felony cases or where youths might be removed from their homes. The Governor signed this law, but vetoed the appropriations for it. In an effort to alleviate the resultant resource constraints (that is, more clients for public defenders without additional funding), the legislature decriminalized most misdemeanors and relabeled them as status offenses, and prohibited appointment of counsel in these cases. To measure the effects of these changes, the authors compared court statistics from 1994 and 1999. The authors found that, as with Gault, the presence of attorneys was the strongest predictor of out-of-home placement, a more severe disposition. They also found that judges, against the new statutory requirements, sometimes failed to appoint counsel in felony cases and failed (over a quarter of the time) to appoint counsel when youths were removed from their homes. Also counter to the 1995 reforms, judges sometimes appointed counsel for status offenses; since the number of status offense cases ballooned, this meant a net increase in the number of youths represented. There was also a substantial overall decrease in the out-of-home placements. The authors discuss possible causes of these results and the broader phenomenon of the presence of counsel aggravating sentencing outcomes.
Feld, B. C., & Schaefer, S. (October 01, 2010). The Right to Counsel in Juvenile Court: The Conundrum of Attorneys as an Aggravating Factor at Disposition. Justice Quarterly,27, 5, 713-741.Topics: Funding, Juveniles, Misdemeanors
Last revised: June 12, 2015 10:13 am